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Wednesday, 18 December 2002 - Strasbourg OJ edition

The work of the Danish presidency

  Riis-Jørgensen (ELDR).(DA) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Prime Minister, congratulations on the fabulous result that you, the Danish Government and the Danish civil service have produced. The result, a unified Europe, belongs to us all, but your good planning and political will were the decisive factors.

Enlargement has finally put the Second World War to rest. Last Friday, in the Polish press room, this was very clear. In the last century, Poland was one of the hardest hit territories in Europe, mistreated from both east and west by regimes whose totalitarian ideologies left behind nothing but destruction and terrible memories. The inequalities of the past have now been eliminated, Europe is reunited, the word ‘solidarity’ has taken on a totally new meaning, Europe has been healed.

Now it is justice that holds sway, and not brute force, among our 25 countries and in relation to the countries around us. The EU thus represents the most binding and only democratic cooperation between independent countries in the world. We should be proud of this, and so we are. This unique cooperation makes heavy demands on us, however. Our citizens expect the right results and solutions; we have to be able to take decisions and be effective. We must therefore focus on the essential points while at the same time preserving our diversity. Decisions in the Council must be taken by qualified majority: this produces a willingness to compromise. The European Parliament must be an equal co-legislator, and, when the Council legislates, we must all be able to follow the process. Justice, not brute force, holds sway in the EU. It is the alpha and omega, therefore, that our common EU rules are observed by everyone, big and small, in the north and south, east and west. This is only possible if we have a strong Commission. An enlarged EU requires that we all uphold the values on which the Community is based. This was the message the summit sent out to Turkey. Turkey still has a lot to do and has to get back down to work. In 2004, it will be assessed in detail and, after this, provided it meets the Copenhagen criteria, will be given a date for the start of its accession negotiations. Turkey is thus being treated in exactly the same way as all of the other candidate countries; as it is justice, not force, that holds sway in the EU.

The Copenhagen Summit has shown that the EU is built on great visions and historic decisions, but, at the same time, time-consuming and sometimes even ugly negotiations on milk quotas, suckler cows and all kinds of transitional arrangements. We politicians must be able to explain both sides of this fantastic European cooperation. A big ‘thank you’ to the President and, once again, hearty congratulations: you deserve to celebrate, and not just with a beer.

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